Jesus presented Himself as the Good Shepherd; we heard this in the gospel of last Sunday, as meaning that He is the One who shows us concretely the good, benevolent, merciful face of the Father; “Good Shepherd” also in the sense of a true, authentic Shepherd, who we can trust, to whom we can entrust our lives and therefore, with confidence, we can live as disciples following Him. But also “Good Shepherd”, in the sense of a beautiful Shepherd as well as being benevolent and true, because Jesus is beautiful!
The incarnate Son of God is beautiful; His message is beautiful, His Word is beautiful, His teaching is beautiful, His life is beautiful, as is the life of every disciple who sets out to follow Jesus. Who opens his heart, his mind to Jesus, to His teaching, we could say – using a language familiar to you – he who opens his heart, his mind to the Divine Will is and becomes more and more a beautiful person, he grows and matures in beauty that is not an element or an aesthetic characteristic but beauty is properly a gift that comes from above, from God. And a person becomes beautiful to the extent that he welcomes God’s gift, when he welcomes what God has in His heart for each of us. This is the Divine Will: what God has in His heart for each of us and that makes us beautiful, because the life of Jesus’ disciple, can only be a beautiful life.
This evening, in the gospel just proclaimed, Jesus, presenting Himself, uses the image of the door and says: “I am the door, the door of the sheepfold”. The one who is family, not a thief or a brigand, goes in and out of this door. The sheepfold is God’s family, it is the people of God, it is the Church. With reference to this teaching of Jesus we can enter this fold, enter the family-Church, enter the path of faith, enter into the Divine Will or we can leave the Family-Church to announce the beauty of what we live within the Family-Church, to announce the beauty of the gospel, the beauty of the life of Jesus’ disciple, only through Jesus Himself.
“I am the door”: Jesus is the inalienable reference point; either Jesus, or we can’t make this extraordinary experience as a Church and live as disciples of Jesus announcing His Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Entering and exiting through this door that is Jesus. We are called to live it simply, in everyday experience: the disciple of Jesus, every day is called to enter and exit through this door. We enter through it – if we think about it a bit – when we gather in prayer, in the moments of intimacy that we experience with the Lord Jesus. Even this moment that we are living, as the celebration of Mass, means passing through Jesus to be able to live in this fold (the Church), which we all are.
But, then, we are also called, to go out from this place, through Jesus, to announce Him, to bring Him to all the people whom the Lord allows us to meet, in our own family, in our work environment, when we meet our friends, in the labors or joys of every day. This is the way of Holiness that each of us is called to follow, as Pope Francis reminded us in his last exhortation; the way of holiness is the way that parents travel in the difficult task of educating their children, it is the way that every worker travels every day to earn his daily bread, it is the way traveled by the sick – Pope Francis says – or by consecrated people with their smile that they give to every person they meet. It’s the daily way of holiness.
I would just like to recall again an element of reflection and prayer and I take it again from the exhortation of Pope Francis. It is an invitation to set out on the path of holiness, on the paths that daily life presents to us. Pope Francis proposes to us the way of the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice”, blessed those who suffer, blessed those who mourn, blessed are the pure in heart …”. At the time of Jesus, it was thought that the beatitude, the full life, the life of joy, the beautiful life, was only a prerogative of divinity, only of those who were in Heaven; the beatitude could not be experienced by human beings.
Instead, Jesus in this His teaching, which Pope Francis reintroduces with strength and which we want to welcome into our hearts, proclaims that we all are blessed; It’s an opportunity that Jesus gives to everyone. The full life, the joyful life, the beautiful life is for all of us who walk the earthly ways that are not always easy and full of joy, they are also ways of suffering. But the beatitude that Jesus proposes to us passes precisely through these ways; we are called to experience the beatitude. Beware, however!
Jesus uses the second person plural: “Blessed are you (not in the singular) who are poor in spirit”, “Blessed are you who are pure in heart.” Blessed are you! We can reach and experience the beatitude, the fullness of life of Jesus’ disciple, only if we live as a family, only if we live as a Church, only if we live inside the fold of Jesus, passing through Him who is the door and living together. Whenever we try to find the fullness of life on our own, in a selfish way, we will certainly fail. The beatitudes of Jesus pass through Him and can be reached and lived in the family (the Church).
So, let’s ask the Lord that He may help us always live as a family of Jesus’ disciples who love each other. When we love one another and see everyone as brothers, we can open our mind and heart to the Divine Will. It is not possible to accept and put into practice the Divine Will in a private, individual and selfish way.
I conclude by reading the end of today’s Gospel; we find the last words of this teaching of Jesus; we want to welcome it in us because it is beautiful; we should never forget this. We want it to enter us, to leave its mark and accompany us day by day. We are the disciples of Jesus, of the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, “the Door” who says to us: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” This is the Divine Will that Jesus comes to bring, to express, so that we can accept and live it concretely.
Mons. Leonardo D’Ascenzo